As the transition from film to digital photography continues, there is general agreement that the new medium offers distinct advantages in productivity and creativity over prior wet processes and routines. For many photographers, however, the shift to digital has also included the addition of shooting video for the Web. While some embrace the challenges of shooting video along with still images at events, others express frustration over what they perceive as an additional burden.
Kevin Launius [pictured], a staff photographer at the Grants Pass (Ore.) Daily Courier, is one of thousands of small and mid-sized circulation news photographers who are facing the challenge of adapting to producing content for both online and print editions of their newspapers. Launius has mixed feelings about having to work with both still pictures and video.
“It has been thrown in our lap — it’s like, here take this and make beautiful pictures now,” said Launius, who has been shooting video for the newspaper for more than a year. “I’m getting used to it. It’s the way the job is expanding.”
Launius, a 10-year veteran photojournalist, recognizes that many newspapers now expect much more from staff as journalism increasingly moves from print to online content. Doing the work traditionally done by two or three people seems to increasingly be the norm at smaller circulation papers.
Covering an Obama Rally for Online and Print Audiences
Observing Launius and others cover a recent Barack Obama campaign rally in Southern Oregon sheds light on how the addition of video is having an impact on the work of photojournalists.
For Launius, excelling at making and transmitting images in both still and video formats appears daunting. Not only do photojournalists concern themselves with the quality of images — static and moving — but they must also worry about audio.
Moving back and forth between working a video camera, capturing still images from a variety of angles and transmitting the images back to the newspaper on deadline throughout the event intensifies what the main objective of visual reportage should be — conveying salient and compelling images that embody the spirit of the event so that readers can become more informed.
In essence, what Launius is doing is preparing content for two different audiences, one a traditional print-based readership and the other an online readership. Although these audiences may eventually merge, some news organizations are forcing a vision of the future of news on staff — one that requires them to think of online content as a cross between print and broadcast journalism.
Challenges of a Cross-Platform World
Although some photojournalists have adapted to juggling the two specializations, others are being dragged reluctantly into a field that they were neither trained for or that they have interest in. The dilemma, for some photojournalists, seems to be that even if they are forced to capture more content across multiple platforms, the quality of what they ultimately produce will suffer.
In a cross-platform world, photojournalists are increasingly expected to be able to produce not only edifying decisive moments in still photography, but also compelling visual narratives with video as well. Newspapers, during a time of decreased readership and consolidation, have little choice but to expect staff to make this adjustment across platforms.